The Swiss Family Robinson, In Words of One Syllable/Chapter 2

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CHAPTER II.

We were all up at the break of day, and knelt down to thank God that He had kept us from harm through the night.

"My dear boys," said I, "we have now, with the help of God, to try our best to reach the shore. We must, ere we go, give the poor beasts on board both food and drink to last them for some days. I hope we may yet find means to come back and take them on shore with us."

We then put all the things on the raft, and ten live hens and two cocks were put in one of the tubs. Some ducks and geese we let go, in the hope that they would swim to the shore; and a pair of doves were

set free, as they could fly to the land.

There was a place in the raft for each of us. In the first tub sat my wife; in the next Frank, who was eight years old; in the third Fritz, not quite twice the age of Frank; in the fourth were the fowls, and some old sails that would make us a tent; the fifth was full of good things in the way of food; in the sixth stood Jack, a bold lad, ten years old; in the next Ernest, twelve years of age, well taught, but too fond of self, and less fond of work than the rest; while I sat in the eighth, to guide the raft that was to save all that was dear to me in the world.

As soon as the dogs (Bill and Jack by name) saw us push off from the ship they leapt in the sea, swam near the raft, and kept well up with us.

The sea was calm; so that we felt quite safe. We made good use of the oars, and the raft bore its freight straight to the land; but as we drew near to the shore the sight of the bare rocks led us to think that we might still be in need of food and drink when that which we had was gone. We could see that casks, chests, spars, and splints from the masts of the wreck lay on the shore.

As we got near, the coast lost its bare look, and we were glad to see that there was no lack of trees. We soon found a bay, to which the ducks and geese had found their way, and here we saw a place where we could land, which we were not slow to do.

As soon as we had made the raft fast with a strong rope, we took out all our wealth, and made a tent with the old sail-cloth we had brought with us, and stuck a pole in the ground to keep it up. This done, I sent the boys to get some moss and dry grass to make our beds with. With the flint and steel we soon set fire to some dry twigs, and my wife made a pot of soup with what she had brought from the ship.

Fritz, who had charge of the guns, chose one, and took a stroll by the side of a stream, while Jack went in search of shell fish, which he thought he might find on the rocks. My share of the work was to save two large casks which were near the shore. Whilst I was up to my knees in the sea I heard a shrill cry, which I knew to come from Jack. I got out at once, took up an axe, and ran to his help. I found him with his legs in a rock pool, where a large crab held him by his toes. It soon made off as I came near; but I struck at it with the axe, and brought it out of the pool. Jack then took it up, though it gave him a pinch or two ere he found out how to hold it, and ran off in high glee to show his dear Ma what he had caught.

When I got back to the tent, I found that Ernest had brought us news that he had seen salt in the chinks of the rocks, and that shell fish were not scarce.

"Then why have you not brought some with you?" said I.

"To get at them," said he, "I should have had to wet my feet."

"Well, my boy, if you are sure you saw them, I will ask you to go back for some. We must each do some work for the good of all; and as for your feet, the sun will dry them as you walk back."

He went, and soon found the salt, left by the sea on the rocks, which the sun had made quite dry. There was some sand with it, and this I said would spoil our soup; but my wife did not take long to find a way to cure that. She had been to a fresh stream with a large jug; from this I saw her pour some on the salt, strain it through a cloth, and let it drip in a cup, so that all the sand was left on the cloth.

When the soup was made hot we had each a taste, and all said that it was good.

"Be not in too great hast," said my wife, "we must wait for Fritz; but if he were here, I do not see how we are to take our soup, for we have no plates nor spoons; we can't lift this huge pot to our mouths and sup from it."

"If we had but some large nuts," said Ernest,"we might cut them in half, and they would make great bowls."

"Quite true," said I; "but as there are none, we may as well wish for delf bowls and real spoons at once."

"Now I have it," quoth Ernest. "Let us use the shells I saw on the shore."

Off ran Jack to the shore, with Ernest at his heels, and back they both came with large and small shells for us all.

Just then Fritz came in, with a look of gloom on his face, which I could see was a sham.

"You do not mean to tell me you have come back with nought?" said I, as he put out his hands as if to prove that such was the case. But Jack, who had been round him, cried out, "No, no! he's got a pig!—such a fine one. Tell us where you found it."

Fritz now brought forth his prize. When I saw it, I knew, from what I had read, that it was not a pig, but a swift beast, known in these parts, that lives on fruit and nuts, and hides in the earth.[1] I felt it right to tell my son that he should not try to make us think that he had not brought any thing back. Though a jest, it was still a lie, and to act a lie was just as wrong as to tell one. Fritz now saw the truth of this, and said so. He then told us how that he had been to the banks of the stream.

"I like the place much more than I do this spot," said he. "The shore lies low, and there are planks, casks, chests, and all sorts of things, that the sea has thrown up. Why not leave this place at once, and go there?"

"There is a time for all things," said I. "We must at least rest here for one night. But did you see no trace of the men who left the ship?"

"None, on land or sea," said he; "but I saw some strange hogs on the shore, that have feet like hares."

We all sat down to take our soup with the shell spoons. Ernest took from his coat a large shell, which he had hid till now, put it in the soup, and then set it down to cool.

"You do not show want of thought," said I to him. "But I am not glad to see that you think so of yourself, and do so much for your own ease, when all the rest do so much for yours. Now, that shell full of soup you must give to our two dogs. We can all dip our small shells in the pot, and you must do as we do; but as we have nought else that the poor dogs can eat out of, that shell shall be theirs."

I knew he felt hurt at this, but he gave it to the dogs at once, and they soon made quick work of their share of the soup.
The sun was low when our meal came to an end. The fowls came round us to pick up the stray crumbs we had let fall, and my wife took out her bag of grain and fed the cocks and hens that we had brought with us, and sent them to roost on the top of our tent. The ducks and geese left us to

SwissFamilyRobinson2.jpg

The young Ape brought Home on Turk's back.

find some place of rest near the stream, and the dogs lay down at the door of the tent.

We took care to load our fire-arms, in case we might need them in the night; sang a hymn of praise to God, and then left our fate in his hands.


  1. The A-gou-ti